With Africa’s premier football tournament kicking off in less than three months in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, these are sad times in nearby Nigeria and Cameroon. The Super Eagles of Nigeria and The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, two of the traditional giants in African football, both failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Nigeria has won the Nations Cup twice, while Cameroon has been crowned African champion four times. In addition, Nigeria and Cameroon are the only African teams to win the gold medal in Olympic men’s football.

In response, the Nigeria Football Federation fired head coach Samson Siasia on Friday. Siasia

Samson Siasia

had been on the chopping block since October 8, when the Super Eagles drew 2-2 with Guinea in Abuja. The result clinched a 2012 Nations Cup berth for Guinea, and eliminated Nigeria from the Nations Cup for the first time in 25 years.

The 44-year-old Siasia, a former striker for the Super Eagles, was in charge of the team less than a year. And Cameroon took a similar tack with its Spanish coach, Javier Clemente, giving him the boot after a 14-month stint guiding the team and replacing him with Frenchman Denis Lavagne.

While the many football fans in Cameroon and Nigeria lick their wounds, they can take some solace in knowing that after a new Nations Cup champion lifts the trophy on February 12 in Libreville, Gabon, attention will shift to qualifying for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Cameroon has qualified for the World Cup an African record six times, while Nigeria has made four appearances in football’s biggest event. If the teams can book tickets to Brazil 2014, that should go a long way towards making this current low point in their football fortunes a distant memory.